[Added May 2005]
An interesting article from New Scientist on 11 steps for a better brain is in fact mostly focused on ways to control the effects of aging on memory .
- Smart drugs.
- Smart food.
- Music listening. Playing an instrument.
- Bionic brains (computer stuff connected directly to the brain: in the next future).
- Mental workouts to improve working memory.
- Mnemonic tricks
- A good night’s rest
- Physical exercise
- The way of the nuns: i.e. a good lifestyle,the support of a community.
- Train to improve the concentration.Avoid causes of distractions.
[Added October 2003]
I am a steady moviegoer and,as such, I like to speak with friends and relatives
about movies. In these talks it is of course important to remember
movie titles,actors and director names.
As the number of films seen increases , remembering all these names becomes more and more difficult.Of course this is understandable, you can’t remember thousands of names.
But what is really amazing is the following phenomenon: there are names that switch
on and off almost endlessly in your memory. You can remember them easily for a few
days , then they go away to come back after ,etc,etc. Also amazing is that some
names instead, you never forget.This is sometime understandable:for example, if you
have seen some actor or actress in person, you won’t forget the name so easily.
But perhaps this is not so difficult to understand.The problem is that we think about memories recall as a computer that retrieves information from storage.
If the information is there we must find it. Is it really like this?
Let’s think about it from the point of view of our mammal cousin: for example
a cat.There is no doubt that a cat has a memory. But what about recall: can a
cat like a computer recall anything anytime? No, he recalls something only if
there is some stimulus connected in some way with the object to be remembered.
This means that our ability to “remember at will” like a computer is
unique for us humans and has probably been acquired with language.
But as such it is not perfect and difficult to maintain.On the other
hand , “remembering like a cat” is more low level and is less damaged by aging.
[Added January 2003]
First a news:
Blog to Cope With Alzheimer’s Fog
Seniors in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, with mild to moderate memory loss, are writing Web logs to help them make sense of their daily lives. And the activity, they say, is slowing the onset of their symptoms.
Human memory is very difficult to study because of its complexity and the
impossibility to carry out experiments with living subject. But Alzheimer’s
disease is nothing else that a memory experiment carried out by nature.
A terrible experiment:what happens to memory if you destroy little by little
neurons almost everywhere in the brain in around ten years? Which memory
subsistem will go down first, which will last up to the end.
The result of this terrible experiment is that episodic memory will go
first. What lasts more is procedural memory.
In fact the memory impairment in Alzheimer’s patients is the same that
experiment aged people but instead of proceeding slowly it is very fast.
For this reason some scientist says that AD is not a proper disease but
only the simptoms of a very fast aging.
[Added February 2000]
There are some interesting news about this subject.Memory loss in senior
citizens seems to be correlated with depression. This means that if you cure depression, you cure also the memory problems.But I would consider here also the
other possibility:a cure of the memory problems, can cure the depression.
Let’s say it in another way:all of us have recollections of wonderful moments
in our life. Normally we have access to these memories,but depressed people, seem to have lost the capacity to access them.When we are depressed, we tend to see only the bad things about ourselves and the world. We may condemn ourselves unfairly
for relatively unimportant human failings. We tend to withdraw into ourselves and may not notice what is going on around us. So,
we may not remember things because we didn’t notice them in the first place.
People who are depressed may also become agitated and this will make it hard to concentrate.
Now, new discoveries shows that the brain continually reorganizes itself. It’s called “neuroplasticity.” And it means that you create your brain from the input you get .So it’s possible that through special
brain exsercises, you can cure depression.What kind of exercises?
These exercises should produce a rewiring of the brain,
so they must be like the exercise you do when you learn playing a new musical
instrument, a constant training. So, I suppose, that the computer should be
essential to administer these exercises.
[Added September 1996]
As people become old, they start experiencing problems with memory especially
recalling names and recognizing faces.Research shows these minor episodes of
forgetting are common after 20.Age seem not to affect some types of memory,so
you can easily remember the same things using different strategies to store